Sunday’s Valhalla

Canon 70-200 mm 2.8 IS L Series Lens, Canon Camera, Canon Lens, Canon Live View, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Homestead, Light Intensity, Spring, Still Life, Sunset
Homestead - La Glace, Alberta - Canada 1

Homestead – La Glace, Alberta – Canada 1

Homestead - La Glace, Alberta - Canada 2

Homestead – La Glace, Alberta – Canada 2

Homestead - La Glace, Alberta - Canada 3

Homestead – La Glace, Alberta – Canada 3

Homestead - La Glace, Alberta - Canada 4

Homestead – La Glace, Alberta – Canada 4

Homestead - La Glace, Alberta - Canada 5

Homestead – La Glace, Alberta – Canada 5

On a Sunday evening, two Sundays ago, we drove west from Grande Prairie. My daughter’s dance season had concluded. She journeyed homeward with friends. My wife and I remained. With time to ourselves, after our supper meal, we drove.

At the junction where highway 43 meets highway 723 we turned right and traveled northward to an as yet undiscovered location for us, the hamlet of Valhalla Centre. Halfway there, we stopped – my wife and I trading positions in our truck cab; she took the wheel and I was able to let my eyes meander over and through each new scene confronting us – scouting potential shots. While this region, the north side of highway 43, is a farming community the land use for farming was noticeably different from that immediately surrounding Grande Prairie; open, unfenced grain fields went on for kilometres; farm buildings accommodated the terrain more than a system for using the land. These farms were huge. The area drew memories of farm community scenes from Garrison Keillor’s ‘News from Lake Wobegon,’ the narrative series accompanying the live radio show, ‘A Prairie Home Companion;’ the stories are set in Minnesota and often poke fun at the Scandinavian/German-American communities. On the Canadian side of the border, CBC broadcasts a sister show, ‘The Vinyl Café’ with Stuart McLean.

Our drive continued to Valhalla Centre and where my wife could have turned left westward to uncharted territory for us, she took a right and we moved toward an area I had been through two weeks before, the area between La Glace and Sexsmith, Alberta. The images presented here are from a third homestead quite close to two others presented a few weeks back. My wife and I followed this drive with a week to ourselves for travel.

Listening to – U2’s ‘I Will Follow,’ ‘Trip through Your Wire,’ ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,’ ‘Magnificent,’ ‘Lucifer’s Hands’ and ‘Every Breaking Wave.’

Quote to Consider – “Photographing a culture in the here and now often means photographing the intersection of the present with the past.” – David DuChemin

La Glace – Bounty

Backlight, Canon Camera, Canon Live View, Fauna, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Homestead, Journaling, Light Intensity, Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty, Project 365 - Photo-a-day, Spring, Still Life, Sunset
La Glace Homestead II - La Glace, Alberta  - Canada 1

La Glace Homestead II – La Glace, Alberta – Canada 1

La Glace Homestead II - La Glace, Alberta  - Canada 2

La Glace Homestead II – La Glace, Alberta – Canada 2

La Glace Homestead II - La Glace, Alberta  - Canada 3

La Glace Homestead II – La Glace, Alberta – Canada 3

La Glace Homestead II - La Glace, Alberta  - Canada 4

La Glace Homestead II – La Glace, Alberta – Canada 4

Saturday’s bounty, a week ago, was found at sundown near La Glace – this homestead image; it followed six shots in which a moose and its calf trotted behind this homestead, a speedy blur of movement from left to right in my viewfinder, all amid this static landscape and sunset.

Listening to – Coldplay’s ‘Magic,’ U2’s ‘Every Breaking Wave,’ One Republic’s ‘I Lived,’ Of Monsters and Men’s ‘King and Lionheart (live),’ John Mayer’s ‘Age of Worry,’ Maroon 5’s ‘Lucky Strike,’ Snow Patrol’s ‘Crack the Shutters,’ Coldplay’s ‘Us Against the World,’ U2’s ‘Song for Someone,’ Ed Sheeran’s ‘Little Bird,’ and John Mayer’s ‘Queen of California.’

Quote to Consider – “To me, photography is an art of observations. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place … I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliott Erwitt, 1928

Rusting Relics – Narratives of Habit

Canon Camera, Canon Live View, Farm, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty, Project 365 - Photo-a-day, Season, Still Life, Vehicle, Vehicle Restoration, Winter
Farm Trucks - Manning, Alberta 1

Farm Trucks – Manning, Alberta 1

Farm Trucks - Manning, Alberta 2

Farm Trucks – Manning, Alberta 2

Farm Trucks - Manning, Alberta 3

Farm Trucks – Manning, Alberta 3

In the past few days I’ve wondered if the attracting element to vehicle photography is the coherence of a vehicle’s design, functionality and comfort. Beyond this, is it the style and form of the vehicle that attracts the eye and the impulse to drive the vehicle? Perhaps it is our ability to imagine both how someone will look driving the vehicle or merely the anticipation of how it will handle that attracts the photographer to a vehicle.

For drivers, habit leads us in our vehicle use, our driving. We tend not to consider the system or systems of steps that allow us to drive a vehicle. Unlocking the door, opening the door, sitting in the seat, putting the key into the ignition, starting the car with or without throttle use, shifting from park to reverse and then to drive, steering, adjusting speed with throttle (gas pedal) – these steps get the car moving and rolling. A system of steps ensures safety of self and others, a system of steps allows us not only to propel the vehicle forward, but to navigate while doing so and a system of steps allows us to park and leave the vehicle. For the driver such a system of steps is more habit than an individually considered set of actions that takes driver and passengers from point of origin to destination and back again.

So, is it design, function, form, colour or comfort that attracts the photographer’s eye to a vehicle? Or is it the photographer’s ability to imagine, see and confirm the narrative of habit associated with a vehicle that pulls the eye – the future narrative of a new vehicle; or, the past narrative of a vehicle from another era? Perhaps these questions are starting points for vehicle advertisers. Still I like looking at each dent, chip and window crack in old, rusting relics; vehicle interiors convey much about driver and passengers – much narrative of habit is found in these vehicles. Here, rusting relics are set out in a farmer’s field near Manning, Alberta. In my drive past the site last weekend it was a surprise to see the old La Crete, REO Speedwagon cab and chassis gone; hopefully it’s found a good home and has had the good fortune to become a project for rehabilitation.

Quote to Inspire – “Photography is for me simply a creative passion, the ability to use light and form to capture in a single image – what I see in my own imagination….” – Tim Wallace, car photographer in interview with Topaz Labs.

Listening to – Jesse Cook’s ‘The Blue Guitar Sessions;’ one song standing out is ‘Ocean Blue.’

Grist & Blue

Canon Camera, Farm, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Journaling, Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty, Still Life, Vehicle, Vehicle Restoration, Weather, Winter
Dormant Rusting Relics - Manning, Alberta 1

Dormant Rusting Relics – Manning, Alberta 1

Dormant Rusting Relics - Manning, Alberta 2

Dormant Rusting Relics – Manning, Alberta 2

It’s March. Two weeks ago we were at -28C, here in High Level, Alberta. Yesterday and today Spring’s warmth melts snow. Returning to High Level from Edmonton on a Saturday afternoon, two weeks ago, a Tamron telephoto lens allowed for this high dynamic range (HDR) image capture of these three dormant, rusting relics – trucks not quite ready for salvage, more grist for custom renovation, nostalgic celebration or for parts. The clarity of the Tamron lens is excellent and at 400 metres distance from the vehicles distortion is limited. I’m liking the image yielded, its blues and textures – they remind of childhood play amongst cars next to the shop at my cousins’ farm.

Quote to Inspire – “To photograph: it is to put on the same line of sight the head, the eye and the heart.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Quote to Inspire – A story first heard in an interview with Rosanne Cash, last June … interesting. “I had a dream once about confronting art, personified, as a human being, and him telling me that he didn’t respect dilettantes. This dream was about eight years ago and it changed my life. I knew that I had to strengthen my concentration and really focus on what I was doing and commit to this work in a really deep way or else give it up. There’s no in-between. That presence is still with me. I want to please him. It’s off the wall, but it was really powerful.” – ‘Rosanne Cash by David Byrne,’ ‘BOMB – Artists in Conversation.’

Listening to – Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Walk like a Man,’ ‘Tunnel of Love’ and ‘Two Faces;’ then it’s ‘Radio Nowhere.’ The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ has shown in different playlists a couple of times in the past week.

Treed Hallway

Canon Camera, Canon Lens, Canon Live View, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Home, Light Intensity, Night, Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty, Project 365 - Photo-a-day, Still Life, Sunrise, Winter
Walterdale House Green - Edmonton, Alberta - Canada

Walterdale House Green – Edmonton, Alberta – Canada

Southward, under Edmonton’s 105th Street bridge, just steps to its west are three sturdy houses from Edmonton’s early nineteen hundreds, houses that comprised what was then known as Walterdale. Each is a two storey structure; two are white and another that has become subject for this image is more ornate in its presentation – white or cream on teal or perhaps a turquoise green. An image from memory coaxes me along this early morning photo ramble – an autumnal scene, a photo of my father’s in which he’s framed one of the white Walterdale houses with fall yellows of birch and aspen along a treed path, an open-ended hallway opening out and arriving at that white house. That photo hangs downstairs, on a wall outside my study where it can receive morning sunlight on sunlit days. Until this photograph, I had not set foot in Walterdale for perhaps thirty years.

Colour, composition and lighting attract me to this image.

Listening to – Marco Beltrami & The Giver Cast perform ‘End Credits’ to ‘The Giver (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack);’ it’s also a piece my daughter is playing on our Heintzman piano (it’s just been tuned … good); I’ve been playing Casting Crowns’ ‘Broken Together’ on it last night – something beautiful.

Quote to Inspire – “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” – Robert Capa

Its Next Turn

Best Practices - Photography, Canon Camera, Canon Live View, Christmas, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Journaling, Lookback Photos - One Year Ago, Photoblog Intention, Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty, Project 365 - Photo-a-day, Summer, Sunrise, Sunset, Weather, Winter
Sunset Cloudburst - Valleyview, Alberta - Canada

Sunset Cloudburst – Valleyview, Alberta – Canada

Vermillion Lakes - Banff, Alberta - Canada

Vermillion Lakes – Banff, Alberta – Canada

2015 is here. It has arrived. Christmas has come and been, presents have been shared and received, family has been enjoyed, rest has been had. An emphasis on creating images has been more absent during this time.

The time has offered the chance to explore/research the photography of others and Google Circles has been a key venue for doing so. It has been an excellent venue for sharing images. What I am impressed by is the speed and rapidity by which new images are added to one’s home stream. And, it is entirely too easy to reach out and access the camaraderie of other photographers and genres of photography that you or I define. Google Circles is a marvelous means of gathering inspiration for photography by way of witnessing what others manage to create – ideas for what I or anyone might try are right there, in front of you. With Google Circles it has been necessary to pare down distracting and unintended kinds of images; but, it can be done in an easy way that can serve your photographic interests. What I did not anticipate was that it would surface significant interests for next steps in photography.

What this exploration has also surfaced is that good photographers are always in touch with their world; they are familiar with current affairs; they have a good sense of what’s going on in terms of the Arts; they are current with literature and the intentions behind such narrative. They are in step and in sync with their world. And, they create images with intention.

So, this blog, takes its next turn. What will I photograph next? What skills will I aim to grow? What influences will I find in this next year? These are likely your questions too. Good! Let’s see what images we can bring into being.

Gratitude – thank you, to all who have been a part of these three years of ‘In My Back Pocket – Photography;’ thank you for your interest and encouragement; thank you for those times when you’ve steered me to a next idea or skill; thank you for the camaraderie (or, perhaps better stated, solidarity) associated with a common pursuit. It ‘all’ counts and I am grateful.

The images presented here are some fun with black and white and selective colorization, images from this summer’s travels.

Listening to – Chopin’s Nocturne No. 14 in F Sharp minor, Opus 9, No. 1; a recording by Amir Katz.

Quote to Consider – “The best images are the ones that retain their strength and impact over the years, regardless of the number of times they are viewed.” – Anne Geddes

Time Out (in the Brubeck sense)

Best Practices - Photography, Canon Camera, Canon Lens, Canon Live View, Fall, Farm, Flora, Fog, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Homestead, Journaling, Light Intensity, Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty, Season, Still Life, Weather
The Blue Hills - Buffalo Head Prairie, Alberta

The Blue Hills – Buffalo Head Prairie, Alberta

Taking time-out in the Brubeck sense, there being too much to do, having completed one huge step along a bigger task, clearing my head with photography before tackling the next huge step. This image is taken on a stretch of road behind the highway connecting Blue Hills to Buffalo Head Prairie, Alberta. The intention had been to use three F-10 images of the same scene with focus-stacking software to produce a merged, focused image utilizing the lens’ strongest point of focus with various focal points in the scene. I didn’t get that far. I didn’t purchase focus-stacking software. Instead, I used HDR Efex Pro to merge the three shots. I’m liking the result, an image that would suit a Thanksgiving theme, the harvest complete, the field prepared for spring and a move toward quieter, less hectic work. Good.

Listening to – A Mash-up of Radiohead vs Dave Brubeck – Five Step; have a listen and watch … ; also, listening to Bruce Cockburn’s ‘My Beat’ and ‘Wondering Where the Lions Are.’

Quote to Consider – “It is not altogether wrong to say that there is no such thing as a bad photograph – only less interesting, less relevant, less mysterious one.” – Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’

Swathed, Corduroy Rows

Canon Camera, Canon Lens, Canon Live View, Combine (Farming), Farm, Flora, Journaling, Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty, Project 365 - Photo-a-day, Spring
International Combine - Whitecourt, Alberta 3

International Combine – Whitecourt, Alberta 3

International Combine - Whitecourt, Alberta 4

International Combine – Whitecourt, Alberta 4

On fields, rolling in their contour, somewhere between Sangudo and Whitecourt, Alberta, an International combine sits, no longer harvesting grain from broad swathed, corduroy rows; the combine is placed within a farmer’s field close to the highway to attract its sale – another farmer could use this International 914 for parts. For me, though, driving past through each season the International’s structure, angles and colour presents contrast to its surrounding landscape attracting my attention. I’ve been meaning to photograph it for some time. Last June, a solitary drive home provided opportunity; and, over the last few nights I’ve been able to edit the image.

Listening to – Peter Gabriel’s ‘San Jacinto,’ ‘In Your Eyes,’ ‘Solsbury Hill,’ ‘Shaking the Tree’ and ‘Blood of Eden.’

Quote to Consider – “… there is a difference between photography conceived as ‘true expression’ and photography conceived (as it is more commonly is) as faithful recording ….” – Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’

Opportunities, Extraordinary

Backlight, Canon Camera, Canon Lens, Flora, Journaling, Light Intensity, Night, Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty, Project 365 - Photo-a-day, Shuttertime with Sid and Mac, Summer, Sunrise
Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 1

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 1

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 2

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 2

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 3

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 3

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 4

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 4

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 5

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 5

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 6

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 6

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 7

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 7

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 8

Vermillion Lakes, Banff, Alberta 8

One aspect of photography that has grown into practice is the matter of recognizing the opportunity presented by the derelict car in a field along the highway, the abandoned farmhouse and former granaries, that thing that you come upon in your travels that you may not ever see again. The challenge is to make time for it, to engage fully in seeing it, to name it, to grasp what it is and what has been its narrative, to share time with it. The choice becomes that of photographing it (… or not) and there are choices in editing that honour the subject and the image, to find its best way(s) of being seen. The image, in its being shared creates opportunity; what has been witnessed and what has been created, not only allows others to see something more of the world, but serves to encourage (or perhaps compel) exploration of that thing witnessed through your camera and lens.

Some of this is about that key teaching from Robin Williams, as professor Keating, in the ‘Dead Poets Society’ in the first poetry lesson – ‘Gather ye rose buds while ye may,’ the import of which was his solemn admonition to his students – ‘seize the day’ and ‘make your lives extraordinary.’ Carpe Diem is about seizing the day as much with any of life’s opportunities as with the opportunities for images that can be created with a camera.

In Banff last week, perhaps owing to summer heat or day/night air pressure differential in the mountains I found myself not always sleeping through the entire night and chose to get out with my camera for landscape photos in pre-dawn dusk. Before leaving for Banff, I had reviewed Maciek Solkulski’s Google+ page for winter sunrise shots he had taken at the Vermillion Lakes in Canada’s Banff National Park. Maciek, an Edmonton photographer, is one half of the podcasting duo of the Shutter Time with Sid and Mac podcast. From Mac’s Google+ page I was able to review maps of where the Vermillion Lakes were in relation to Banff. And, so, before dawn, two days in a row, I got out to the Vermillion Lakes for morning images; these are presented here.

Listening to – Elliott Smith’s ‘Between Bars,’ ‘No Name #3’ and ‘Angeles,’ Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’ and The Waterboys’ ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ – all songs from Good Will Hunting.

Quotes to Inspire – (1) “The photographer both loots and preserves, denounces and consecrates;” and, “Life is not about significant details, illuminated (in) a flash, fixed forever. Photographs are.” – Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’

Lost & The Way

Canon Camera, Canon Lens, Canon Live View, Flora, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Journaling, Night, Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty, Project 365 - Photo-a-day
Mount Norquay Ski Hill - Banff, Alberta 1

Mount Norquay Ski Hill – Banff, Alberta 1

Mount Norquay Ski Hill - Banff, Alberta 2

Mount Norquay Ski Hill – Banff, Alberta 2

Trusting the map, trusting Steve with the map – some twenty-five years ago, in Canada’s Banff National Park we cycled along a fire road behind Mount Norquay with the intention of riding our mountain bikes up and down the mountain along what should have been a short ride on a horse trail, no more than four hours at the most. Instead, for two or three hours, our bikes were hefted onto shoulders and step-by-step, in sunlight, through rain, in sunlight again and then through snow we climbed upward toward Elk Point summit. Steve, whose cardio-vascular fitness out-stripped ours, was up the mountain easily and a ways ahead, scouting the trail.

We crested the summit in snow, large, feathery, wet flakes of snow, our legs rubbery gelatin, needing rest. Plodding forward without the energy to return to cycling, we pushed our bikes, hoping to meet Steve somewhere on the path and settle-in for a rest. We looked ahead into the snow for Steve and looking harder a second time saw him racing toward us and pointing to his right (our left); he was signalling something quite assertively. When he met us, he pointed again to our left and gasping identified the bear on the other side of the summit’s meadow. We focused our eyes. There it was, scrabbling at the earth, eating, with its back to us. Along our climb we had seen massive bear paw prints in the mud – twelve-to-fourteen inches in diameter. We’d hoped they were not fresh. Now, we needed to get on our bikes, get our pedals pumping and put distance between us and this bear. Ten minutes later we huddled beneath a huge forest conifer, away from the bear, out of the snow.

We considered the time; we started riding at 2:00 p.m. and aimed to complete our twenty kilometre trek by suppertime. It was now 8:00 p.m.; we’d made it to the summit and with September’s shrinking daylight hours the sun’s incline over the horizon had already begun. Riding down the mountain would occur in shadow and our descent would, for the most part, occur in darkness. We began riding downward on the mountain’s horse trail switchbacks. Our bicycles’ brake pads quickly wore down to nothing – we needed to sit on the cross-bar and use our feet on gravel to slow our descent. Seeing pretty well in the dark, I led through the zig and zag of mountain switchbacks. Fifteen minutes went by without incident. Then, rounding one switchback Steve’s bike flew over my head … without Steve; he’d been higher up, on a switchback behind me. His bike had landed in bushes ahead of me. We halted taking stock of how we were doing. We were cold, somewhat lost and had exhausted the food we’d brought – our best bet was to follow trail markers toward Banff. We put Steve back on his bike and trudged on. The switchbacks levelled out into a long valley, an area that should have been easy to traverse – just cycling along the track. But, the track was mud, four inches deep … likely the result of the rain and snow we’d encountered on the other side of the mountain. We would have to push our bikes through the mud or carry them; without sustaining food and calories, our legs remained gelatinous rubber. We hefted our bikes and pushed them on drier bits of earth.

The photograph, presented here, is the area where the four of us moved from mountain trail on to paved road surface.

From here, I rode down the mountain, quickly, got to the Ford three-quarter ton, returned and got the others – Steve, Vince and Goose (last name Guzman). Hypothermic, worried and overwhelmed, Vince and Goose had fallen from their bikes crossing the western-most Texas-gate leading into Banff, Vince hurting family jewels and Goose hyper-extending two fingers. At the hospital, we were fed cookies and tea and Vince and Goose were examined by a doctor who scolded us for cycling into bear country – cyclists, in their speed, can surprise bears and this doctor had treated a cyclist the week before who had been mauled by a bear.

Rather than return to our tent trailer, I rented a chalet and its proprietor allowed us to use the pool/Jacuzzi to warm ourselves. Later, pizza and much needed sleep served to rejuvenate us; we were ready to go at the crack of dawn, the next day. With our endeavor, we’d trusted Steve with a mountain map and there’d been confusion with directions. That night, as we each made sense of the mishap we were amazed at where we’d been; our twenty-some kilometre trek had morphed into sixty-two kilometres by the ride’s end. Looking back, those were much younger days, the kind my son will have with his pals at University. For me, though, I was freshly married, out of University, yet to be employed and among friends as my wife began her school year as teacher in northern Alberta. I had not been to this site for more than twenty-five years. Last week, looking in and around Banff with my camera I found it and this story again.

By David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. you must let it find you.

Listening to – Jessica Sanchez’ ‘Lead Me Home,’ Jack Johnson’s ‘Home,’ Sarah Masen’s ‘The Valley’ and Snow Patrol’s ‘Life Boats’ and ‘This Isn’t Everything You Are.’

Quote to Inspire – “[Photographing] … is a way of at least tacitly … encouraging whatever is going on to keep on happening.”